When it comes to adopting progressive attitudes, the NFL has long been one of the nation’s last frontiers.
Which is why it was just amazing to see the reaction last week after Raiders defensive lineman Carl Nassib became the first active NFL player to announce he’s gay.
Since the 28-year-old stepped out in a video on his Instagram page on Monday, there has been a general wave of support from his teammates, the NFL and the public.
Player after player tweeted Nassib’s support. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, whose background on many issues facing American society has often been deaf, issued a statement in favor of the player. Nassib’s # 94 jersey was the top seller on Fanatics-owned sportswear websites on Monday and Tuesday. The Trevor Project, a charity that provides crisis intervention and suicide prevention to LGBTQ youth, told People Magazine that donations have increased 100% since Nassib announced in his release video that he donated $ 100,000.
Compare that to the welcome that Missouri’s Michael Sam received when he stepped out ahead of the 2014 NFL Draft. Questions remain as to whether Sam, who was scheduled to make the third round of the draft, would have fallen in the seventh round s ‘he hadn’t made his sexuality public.
Or contrast with the time former Net Jason Collins stepped out in a Sports Illustrated cover story in 2013. The first active player in a major sport to announce he was gay, Collins received majority support. of the NBA but was labeled a sinner by ESPN. announcer Chris Broussard. (Broussard later apologized.)
Or compare that to what John Amaechi had to go through in 2007 when in his autobiography he became the first former NBA player to come out. A number of players, including Tim Hardaway and a young LeBron James, were not at all supportive. (The two have since changed their views, with Hardaway becoming a vocal advocate for LGBTQ rights.)
Michael Rosenfeld, a Stanford sociologist, said there had been more changes in attitudes toward gay rights over the past three decades in the United States than there had ever been in attitudes. recorded on any question. In 1988, the General Social Survey – a long-running national survey conducted by the National Opinion Research Center – found that only 11.6% of respondents believed same-sex couples should have the right to marry. By 2018, the number of respondents who believed same-sex couples should have the right to marry had risen to 68%.
“When people you know personally or successful people who have high status come out of the closet, it increases the status of everyone in the formerly closed group,” Rosenfeld said in an email interview. “Gays and lesbians began to come out in large numbers in the 1990s in the United States, and this massive wave of people claiming their identities led to a fundamental liberalization of American attitudes towards homosexuals and towards human rights. homosexuals. Attitudes towards gay rights. are the fastest liberalizing attitudes in the history of American public opinion. “
Sports, especially conservative sports like soccer, may have followed the general change in public attitudes. Yet the way attitudes have changed in sport reflects how attitudes have changed in general. The more LGBTQ people you know, either personally or through the media, the more likely you are to support their community.
Amaechi was a pioneer who laid the foundations for men’s sport and has been followed by athletes such as Collins, Sam and now Nassib.
“This young man is a force for good,” Amaechi said of Nassib on Tuesday on Dan Le Batard with Stugotz. “What he did today – there’s a youngster watching him right now who went to school a little lighter. Even though they haven’t revealed anything about themselves, they are went to school with a greater sense of hope because of this young man. That’s a good thing. “